Balanced Growth – What does it really mean?

Chapter 3 – The concept of “balance” is generally viewed as a net positive situation where compromises result in opposing sides being content with the premise that neither side gets everything it wants.

For land use, “balance” has been distorted by the untenable philosophy that development is inevitable and is the single most important factor in assuring that we will be prosperous. Certainly, this concept works well for developers, builders and realtors, but not so well for the general public that ultimately suffers with infrastructure deficits, overcrowded schools, higher taxes, traffic gridlock, and polluted rivers and streams.

A small group of development industry representatives joined forces as the “Balanced Growth Initiative” (BGI) to further the myth that development anywhere and everywhere is good because it generates revenue for the County. BGI hired a prestigious public relations firm to peddle this concept while arguing against the obvious threats to our quality of life.

According to BGI, the 2012 update to the 2006 Plan should involve little more than changing the date and the terminal population statistics. Never mind that of all the counties in Maryland, Charles has the longest commuting times, the greatest per capita use of school trailers and the highest property taxes. The policies of the 2006 Plan that got us here should be maintained so the county can grow by another 32,000 houses for 75,000 new residents during the next 25 years.

“Smart Growth” is a version of “Balanced Growth” – a compromise between no growth and paving everything. Perhaps 75,000 new residents isn’t the best target and we should set new goals. Maybe better goals would result from a better “balance” between the quality of life goals generally cherished by the public and the short-term, deficit-producing profits for the development industries.

Read more from our ongoing series, “Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan fiasco.”

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